INSIGHT by the EU Council
The Council and the European Parliament’s negotiators today reached a provisional political agreement on the revision of the directive on industrial emissions (IED) and the regulation on the establishment of an industrial emissions portal (IEP).
The new rules aim to offer better protection of human health and the environment by reducing harmful emissions from industrial installations including intensive livestock farms into the air, water and soil and through waste discharges. They also aim to improve environmental data reporting by upgrading the existing European pollutant release and transfer register (E-PRTR) in order to establish a more comprehensive and integrated industrial emissions portal.
The deal is provisional pending formal adoption by both institutions.
The EU’s goal for 2050 is to bring pollution down to levels that are no longer harmful to human health. Today’s agreement on industrial emissions will help us work towards this goal on two fronts. We are setting stronger rules to tackle pollution at source, while at the same time improving the reporting and monitoring of emissions. The new rules will set pollution limits at more effective levels and provide clear guidance to industry on the right investments to reduce their emissions effectively.
-Teresa Ribera Rodríguez, Spanish third vice-president of the government and minister for the ecological transition and the demographic challenge
| Industrial emissions directive
The industrial emissions directive is the main EU instrument regulating pollution from industrial installations including intensive livestock farms, such as nitrogen oxide, ammonia, mercury, methane and carbon dioxide. Industrial-scale installations and farms are required to operate in accordance with a permit, granted by national authorities, using Best Available Techniques (BAT) as a standard.
Scope of the directive
As amended, the directive would strive to promote energy efficiency, a circular economy, and decarbonisation.
In their provisional agreement, the co-legislators adjusted certain agricultural thresholds for animal rearings: 350 LSU for pigs, 280 LSU for poultry (300 for laying hens) and 380 LSU for mixed farms. Extensive farms and animal farming for domestic use would be excluded from the scope of the directive. The new rules would be applied progressively, starting in 2030 with the largest farms.
The agreement also brings mining activities into the scope of the directive, covering the extraction and treatment of non-energy ores produced on an industrial scale such as iron, copper, gold, nickel and platinum. Subject to a review and legislative proposal by the Commission, the scope may be extended to industrial minerals as well.
Emissions limit values
The agreement introduces the concept of environmental performance limit values (EPLVs), to be set by the competent authorities in the permit to authorise the establishment and operating of installations. The Council and Parliament agreed to make EPLV ranges binding for all energy resources, except for water, for which competent authorities must set binding targets. EPLVs will be indicative for emerging techniques.
Establishment of e-permits
The existing directive requires member states to set out binding rules to establish a registration mechanism that enables industrial installations to apply for and obtain a permit, provided that they comply with certain requirements.
The co-legislators agreed to make permitting more efficient and less burdensome by introducing an obligation for member states to establish an electronic permit system (e-permit) by 2035.
The text calls on member states to establish effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties for those who infringe the measures adopted to implement the directive. These penalties would have to take into account the severity and duration of the infringement, whether it was recurrent, and the people and environment it affected. They must include administrative fines and, for the most serious infringements, fines of at least 3% of the operator’s annual turnover in the EU.
Under the new rules, member states would also have to ensure that people are entitled to claim compensation where damage to their health has occurred as a result of a violation of the national rules transposing the directive.
The co-legislators introduced the flexibility needed for member states to adapt the provisions on penalties and compensation in cases of health damages to their national legal systems.
The provisional agreement sets the date of 2028 (and every five years thereafter) for the Commission to review and assess the implementation of the directive. This assessment must take into account emerging techniques and the need for further pollution prevention measures or EU-wide minimum emission limit requirements.
By 2026, the Commission must assess how to best address the emissions generated from cattle farming and from agricultural products placed in the EU market.
| Industrial emissions portal
The co-legislators also agreed to a proposal establishing a new portal for information on industrial emissions replacing the existing E-PRTR regulation. The portal would enhance public access to information related to industrial emissions and facilitate public participation in environmental decision-making.
It would include data on the use of water, energy and key raw materials by the relevant installations for monitoring progress towards a circular, resource-efficient economy.
The Council and the Parliament introduced a general review clause to assess activities and pollutants covered by the regulation, as well as the applicable thresholds in Annex I (concerning the activities that require reporting above set thresholds) and II (concerning the pollutants that need to be reported above set thresholds). The co-legislators added dicofol and two types of PFAS — perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and its salts and perfluorohexane-1-sulfonic acid (PFOS) — to the substances listed in Annex II. By 2026, the Commission must issue a review of Annex II and provide guidance on the measurement methodology for these substances.
The provisional agreement also includes provisions to align the regulation with the IED and the Kyiv Protocol on pollutant release and transfer registers.
The co-legislators agreed on the entry into force of the regulation in 2028, to give member states enough time to adapt to the new rules.
| Next steps
The provisional agreements will now be submitted to the member states’ representatives within the Council (Coreper) and to the Parliament’s environment committee for endorsement. If approved, the texts will then need to be formally adopted by both institutions, following legal-linguistic revision, before they can be published in the EU’s Official Journal and enter into force.
On 5 April 2022, the Commission submitted a proposal to review the industrial emissions directive. First adopted in 2010, the directive is the main EU instrument for preventing and reducing pollution from large industrial installations. The main objective of the revision is to make progress towards the EU’s zero pollution ambition for a toxic-free environment.
The new rules will:
- bring more installations into its scope (notably more large-scale intensive livestock farms)
- make permits more effective
- reduce the administrative burden
- increase transparency and
- give more support to breakthrough technologies and other innovative approaches
In parallel to the revision of the directive, the Commission adopted a complementary proposal for a regulation on the reporting of environmental data from industrial installations and establishing an Industrial Emissions Portal. The proposal replaces and repeals the existing European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR), which gives public access to key environmental data from industrial facilities in EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia and the UK.
It is updated annually with data reported by some 35 000 industrial facilities covering 65 economic activities. This data includes 91 key pollutants such as heavy metals, pesticides, greenhouse gases and dioxins. The E-PRTR is closely linked to the industrial emissions directive, with reporting requirements for pollutant releases and transfers aligned with the permit conditions set out in the directive.
The main goal is to advance towards the European Green Deal’s zero-pollution ambition by providing the public with access to a more integrated and coherent dataset on key environmental emissions generated by industrial installations.
The two proposals are complementary pieces of legislation aimed at regulating and monitoring the environmental impact of industrial activities.
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